HomeCulture and HistoryWhat is a Tea Pet? – Origin, Uses & DIY Tea Pet
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What is a Tea Pet? – Origin, Uses & DIY Tea Pet

Do you wish for a little clay friend to join you during your tea time? If you do, a tea pet is what you need! 

Tea pets are a part of delightful tradition that can turn your tea-drinking into something enchanting. But what a tea pet really is?

In the simplest terms, a tea pet is a small clay figurine, often found presiding over traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. But it’s much more than that! Stick around to discover what is a tea pet, tea pet purpose, tea pet history, and the tea you can “feed” it. 

Most importantly, I have a section for you if you are looking for how to make a tea pet. Let’s bring it on!

What is a Tea Pet?

A tea pet is a small figurine or sculpture, typically made from clay, that is used in Chinese Gongfu tea ceremony as a companion during tea ceremonies or casual tea sessions. It is placed on the tea tray or tea table, and tea is poured over it during the tea preparation process.

The tradition of tea pets dates back to ancient times in China, where they were considered to bring good luck, fortune, and prosperity. Tea lovers often treat their tea pets as if they were real pets, pouring tea over them as a way to show appreciation and care.

During the tea ceremony, as the tea is poured over the tea pet, it absorbs some of the tea’s aroma and color, creating a beautiful patina over time.

This process is believed to add character and personality to the tea pet, making it more unique and cherished by its owner.

Tea pets come in various shapes and designs, often resembling animals, mythical creatures, or other auspicious symbols.

They can be found in tea shops or specialty stores, and some tea enthusiasts even collect different tea pets to display during their tea sessions.

Tea Pet History 

In the heartland of China during the Yuan Dynasty, tea pets were born out of a longing for companionship during quiet, contemplative tea ceremonies. Initially crafted as humble clay figures, they matured into intricate works of art as the centuries unfolded. 

With each passing era, they evolved to echo the sophistication of tea-drinking rituals, transforming tea consumption from an ordinary activity to an immersive, spiritual experience.

Tea Pets Across Borders and Cultures

Over time, tea pets have transcended the borders of their Chinese homeland, finding loving homes in diverse cultures. They’ve traveled with tea, quietly settling on tea tables across the globe

Fast forward to today, and the tradition continues, with tea pets gracing tea tables across the world, fostering an intimate connection with this ancient practice. Isn’t it intriguing how such small figurines carry the weight of centuries-old traditions?

What is a Tea Pet Used For?

Tea pets serve as symbolic companions during Chinese tea ceremonies or casual tea sessions. While they don’t have a practical function, they play a meaningful role in the tea experience.

Companion for Tea Time

A tea pet is like a little friend that keeps you company during tea time. It sits on the tea tray or table, becoming a part of the tea-drinking ritual. Pouring tea over the tea pet is like sharing the joy of tea with this symbolic companion.

Brings Good Luck and Happiness

Tea pets are believed to bring good luck and happiness. When you pour tea over the pet, it’s like sharing positive energy with it and everyone around. It symbolizes well-wishes and adds an auspicious touch to the tea session.

Soaks Up Tea’s Smell and Color

When you pour tea on the tea pet, it absorbs some of the tea’s smell and color. Over time, the pet develops a unique and beautiful shiny layer. It is called tea pet patina. It reflects the memories of many tea sessions and becoming more cherished.

Makes Tea Time Special

Taking care of your tea pet and pouring tea over it makes tea time more than just a routine. It adds an emotional and sentimental element to the tea ceremony. The act of nurturing the tea pet shows appreciation for this small yet significant part of tea culture.

Looks Pretty and Traditional

Tea pets come in cute shapes and designs, often resembling animals or mythical creatures. They add a decorative and traditional touch to the tea table, making the tea setting more inviting and charming.

Shows Love for Nature and Tea

Pouring tea on the tea pet goes beyond simple symbolism. It shows how much we love and respect nature’s gifts, like tea. The tea pet becomes a symbol of the harmony between humans and nature, as well as a reminder of the joy of sharing tea with others.

In simple terms, a tea pet is like a little lucky charm that becomes part of the tea experience. It symbolizes good luck, spreads positive vibes, and evolves with time, gaining sentimental value.

lazy tiger tea pet

How to Choose a Tea Pet?

Choosing the perfect tea pet involves a personal journey of self-discovery, where you explore your preferences and consider various factors. To help you in this delightful pursuit, here are some essential considerations to keep in mind when selecting a tea pet:”

  • Personal Preference: Choose a tea pet that aligns with your personal taste and resonates with you.
  • Traditional or Abstract: Decide between a traditional animal figure (e.g., frog, pixiu) or an abstract shape that appeals to your aesthetic sense.
  • Size Consideration: Take into account the size of your tea table to ensure the tea pet fits harmoniously.
  • Tea Ceremony Compatibility: Consider the type of tea ceremonies you typically host and choose a tea pet that complements the ambiance and theme.
  • Maintenance Commitment: Evaluate the level of care and attention you are willing to provide for your tea pet, as some may require more maintenance than others.
  • Joy and Enhancements: Prioritize selecting a tea pet that brings you joy, evokes positive emotions, and enhances your overall tea experience.

How Do You Use a Tea Pet?

Incorporating a tea pet into your tea-drinking ritual can add a layer of charm and novelty to the experience. But how exactly do you use a tea pet? Here’s a simple guide to get you started:

  1. Select Your Pet: Choose a tea pet that aligns with your personality and aesthetic sense. As mentioned above, your tea pet should bring you joy.
  2. Raise Your Pet: Prepare your tea pet for its tea journey by ‘raising’ it. This involves pouring hot water over it for a few days, priming it to absorb tea.
  3. Place Your Pet: Your tea pet deserves a place of honor on your tea tray during a tea ceremony.
  4. Pour Tea Over Your Pet: As you savor your tea, generously share some with your tea pet.

This process, carried out over many tea sessions, results in a shiny, tea-stained patina that is uniquely yours and your tea pet’s. An exciting adventure awaits you and your tea pet!

Other Uses of Tea Pets

In addition to their pivotal role in tea ceremonies, tea pets have versatile uses that extend into our daily lives:

  • Decor Pieces: With their intricate details and elegant appearance, tea pets make a charming addition to your home or office decor. They’re tiny artistic creations that can add a touch of serenity to any space.
  • Symbolic Companions: In some cultures, tea pets are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. Having one on your desk or at home could serve as a symbol of fortune and wellbeing.
  • Conversation Starters: Displaying a tea pet can ignite curiosity and initiate engaging conversations, especially with fellow tea enthusiasts.
  • Gifts: Owing to their cultural significance and beauty, tea pets can make thoughtful, unique gifts for friends and family who appreciate tea culture.

What Can You “Feed” Your Tea Pet?

Ever wondered what exactly you “feed” these adorable clay companions during your tea ceremonies? Let’s delve into the tea pet’s ‘menu’ and learn how different types of tea nourish their growth and development.

Best Types of Tea to Use

What’s on the menu for your tea pet? Traditionally, tea pets are ‘fed’ with the same tea that you drink. So, whether you’re a fan of Oolong, Green, Black, or White tea, feel free to share it with your pet. Over time, the tea contributes to the development of your tea pet’s patina, enhancing its aesthetic value.

Effects of Different Teas on Tea Pet

Different teas impact your tea pet’s color and texture. Dark teas might darken its patina, while lighter ones might add a subtle gloss. It’s fascinating to watch your tea pet evolve with each tea session!

Different Forms of Tea Pets

Let’s explore the vibrant variety of tea pet designs, ranging from traditional tea pet to rare tea pet, to fully appreciate the extent of imagination and craftsmanship these miniature marvels can embody.

Common Types of Tea Pets

Tea pets come in a delightful array of forms, each with its own charm. Some popular forms include:

  • Animal Figures: These are the most common, including toads, turtles, pixiu (mythical creatures), and even dragons.
  • Human Figures: Monks and Buddha are common human forms, often symbolizing peace and wisdom.
  • Abstract Shapes: For the modern tea lover, abstract shapes offer a minimalist yet captivating choice.
  • Fruit Tea Pet: Some tea pets come in cute fruit shapes like oranges, peaches, or strawberries. They add a playful and fun vibe to tea time. These fruit tea pets represent happiness and abundance and bring a sweet touch to the tea table.

Unusual and Rare Tea Pets

For those who crave uniqueness, there are exotic tea pets:

  • Color Changing Pets: Crafted from special clay, these tea pets change color when you pour hot tea on them.
  • Musical Pets: Some tea pets have a hollow structure that produces soft, soothing sounds when tea is poured onto them.

Collectible Pets

Tea pets can also become collectible items, much like stamps or coins, particularly if they’re made by a famous artist or represent a rare form.

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fat cat tea pet

DIY Tea Pets: Create Your Own Tea Companion

Ready to craft your own tea pet? Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Choose Your Clay: Opt for high-quality, non-toxic clay that can withstand high temperatures.
  2. Sketch Your Design: Draw a rough sketch of the tea pet you’d like to create. This will serve as a blueprint for your creation.
  3. Sculpt Your Pet: Roll and shape the clay according to your sketch. Use sculpting tools to add details and texture.
  4. Dry and Refine: Let your tea pet dry naturally. Once dried, refine the shape by removing any rough edges or irregularities.
  5. Fire Your Pet: Follow the clay manufacturer’s instructions to fire your tea pet. This process will solidify it and make it heat-resistant.
  6. Polish and Seal: Once cooled, polish your tea pet with a soft cloth, then seal it with a natural clay sealer to protect it from moisture.

Creating your own tea pet adds a personal touch to your tea-drinking experience, making it even more special!

What to Do With Old Tea Pet?

If you have an old tea pet that you no longer use or want to keep, there are several thoughtful and responsible ways to handle it:

Pass It On

If your tea pet still has sentimental value or is in good condition, consider passing it on to a fellow tea enthusiast or a friend who might appreciate it. Sharing the joy of tea pets can bring happiness to others and keep the tradition alive.

Donate or Gift

You can donate your old tea pet to a local tea shop, a tea club, or a cultural center that promotes tea culture. Alternatively, you could give it as a gift to someone who is interested in Chinese tea culture or who collects tea-related items.

Repurpose or Reuse

Get creative and find new uses for your tea pet. You can repurpose it as a decorative element in your home, use it as a paperweight, or turn it into a mini planter for succulents or small plants.

Sell or Trade 

If you believe your tea pet has value or is collectible, you could consider selling it to tea enthusiasts or collectors online or at a local market. Alternatively, you might find someone willing to trade it for another tea-related item.

Artistic Display

If your tea pet has become too worn or damaged for practical use, consider using it in an artistic display or as part of a tea-themed centerpiece for your home.


If the material of the tea pet allows for recycling, consider taking it to a recycling center or finding a facility that can handle the specific material properly.


If your tea pet is made from biodegradable materials like clay or other natural substances, you may be able to compost it. Check with local composting facilities or guidelines for proper disposal.

Embrace the Joy of Tea Pets

To conclude, tea pets are much more than adorable companions – they’re an integral part of the tea-drinking ritual, symbolizing peace, mindfulness, and the joy of shared moments. Whether you’re a tea aficionado or a newbie, introducing a tea pet to your routine can elevate your tea experience and bring in a dash of joy. 

So, why not welcome a little tea pet into your life today?


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Indeed, they do! As tea pets are ‘fed’ tea over time, they develop a patina, subtly changing their color and texture. The transformation is a beautiful testament to the shared journey between you and your tea pet.

Tea pets come in various sizes, from petite ones that can sit snugly in the palm of your hand, to larger ones that demand their own space on the tea table. Usually, they are 3 inches tall. The choice depends on the size of your tea table and your personal preference.

A tea pet serves multiple purposes. Primarily, it’s a silent companion in your tea ceremonies, adding an element of whimsy. It’s also a symbol of good luck, a charming décor piece, and a conversation starter. Moreover, the act of ‘feeding’ a tea pet during the ceremony is a meditative practice that enhances the overall experience.

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